Preston boss Alex Neil reflects on time at Norwich ahead of Deepdale clash

Alex Neil says he has learned lessons – good and bad – from his time as Norwich City boss as he looks to drive Preston on towards the Premier League.

He took the Canaries to the top flight in 2015, doing that within five months of being plucked from Hamilton.

Norwich midfielder Alex Tettey played under Alex Neil at Carrow Road

Norwich midfielder Alex Tettey played under Alex Neil at Carrow Road

Three years on, the Scot is aiming for a top-six finish and a crack at the play-offs with North End.

Tomorrow’s clash with the Canaries at Deepdale is one of the hurdles Neil has to jump in order to stay in the hunt.

A victory would strengthen their hand going into the final two rounds of matches.

Neil said: “I had a good time at Norwich, they gave me a great opportunity which I will always be thankful for.

“I managed to repay them by getting into the Premier League.

“Unfortunately we came back down and we probably didn’t do enough work to be prepared for the Premier League at that stage.”

By preparation, Neil means investment – he felt they were a touch short in terms of the squad he had.

“We didn’t really invest the summer we went up,” said Neil.

“What we did was to try and catch up in January and I think January is a dangerous month to recruit.

“Even here, it has proved quite difficult because the guys you bring in need to hit the ground running.

“If you build in the summer you have all of pre-season to get them ready.

“At Norwich we didn’t do enough basically, if you go up to the Premier League you have to make sure you are strong – you can’t give other clubs a six-month head start.

“Knowing that, I would make sure those mistakes don’t happen again.

“I would like to address things a lot quicker, that is something I have learned.”

Neil will always be grateful for Norwich taking a punt on him, that coming so early in his managerial career.

Said Neil: “I’d only been a manager for a year-and-a-half and hadn’t really thought about going anywhere.

“If I’m being honest, it all came a bit out of the blue but it was an opportunity which I couldn’t turn down.

“I met some great people there, the owners Michael Wynn-Jones and Delia Smith I have great affection for.”

Norwich come to Preston in 13th place and on a run of two wins in the last 13.

The most recent of those wins came a fortnight ago when they beat Aston Villa 3-1 at home.

While there has been quite a big turnover of the squad, a number of players remain at Norwich from Neil’s time in charge.

They include midfielder Alex Tettey, Wes Hoolahan, Timm Klose, Ivo Pinto and Nelson Oliveira.

James Maddison, who this week was named in the PFA team of the year, was signed during Neil’s reign.

But he was loaned straight back to Coventry City and then later to Aberdeen in order to gain first-team experience.

Maddison, 21, is Norwich’s leading scorer with 15 goals, with Oliveira on eight.